by Martin Cothran
One of the most common allegations against the truth of Christianity is the charge that the Biblical documents are unreliable. And one of the assertions used to justify this charge is that the long swaths of time over which Biblical documents were copied and recopied would have resulted in significant variations in the text.
So when a scroll of the Book of Isaiah was discovered in Qumran Cave 1 in 1947, it provided scholars with a test of the accuracy of Old Testament Biblical documents. The scrolls were dated from the first or second centuries A.D., almost 2,000 years old. The Isaiah scrolls and several others were the oldest Hebrew manuscripts that had ever been discovered, predating the oldest extant documents by about 1,000 years.
As Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer put it in 1985,
Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The five percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.
The conclusion among the scholars working on the project is that the scrolls provided confirmation of the accuracy of Biblical texts (at least the Old Testament ones).
So now comes news that another scroll found in the Dead Sea area has been recovered using modern “visual scanning” technology, this one of the Book of Leviticus, discovered in 1970. The result? We go to our man in Jerusalem:
The text discovered in the charred Ein Gedi scroll is “100 percent identical” to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use for centuries, said Dead Sea Scroll scholar Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who participated in the study.